Short Stuff 22.3

McDonald’s Gets Low Marks

Illustration: Tony Auth
©2008 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Reprinted with permission of Universal Press Syndicate

Under intense pressure from parents and national organizations, McDonald’s quickly suspended placing marketing messages on children’s report cards in Seminole County, Fla.

The joint 10-year business partnership between the county’s school board and McDonald’s was scuttled in mid-January. In exchange for printing costs, McDonald’s was allowed to print ads on report cards that offered students free Happy Meals for good grades. “The offer, announced in conjunction with a smiling picture of Ronald McDonald printed on report card envelopes, was valid from kindergarten through 5th graders,” Brandweek magazine reported.

The partnership didn’t sit well with Susan Pagan, a mother who contacted the Cambridge, Mass.-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Pagan said she was outraged by the district’s actions, which she said is tantamount to exploitation.

Beyond the ethical considerations of branding report cards, the CCFC raised concerns about the nutritional value of Happy Meals, which they said are high in calories, fat, and sugar.

Illinois District Just Says ‘No’

A boycott by a suburban Chicago school district caught national attention in February for the district’s refusal to give state exams to English language learners.

Administrators at DuPage County’s Carol Stream Elementary District 93 are the first “school employees to say publicly they will not administer the test to some students,” the Illinois State Board of Education told the Daily Herald.

District officials told the paper they were “willing to break the law…to shield students from the frustration and humiliation of taking an exam not designed for them.”

A spokesman from the federal Department of Education told the Daily Herald that the boycott could jeopardize the district’s federal funding.

“While there may be consequences for the adults in the organization, we shouldn’t ask kids to be tested on things they haven’t been taught,” District Superintendent Henry Gmitro told the Daily Herald.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education forced Illinois to drop a test designed for English language learners, saying it wasn’t an adequate measure of state standards. Illinois is currently developing a test to meet federal guidelines, according to the Daily Herald. In the meantime, Illinois will allow accommodations such as extra time or audio recordings to English learners taking the standard tests.

Protesters Detained

Twenty-five demonstrators — many from Baltimore — were detained by police during a Feb. 6 protest of Maryland’s “historic underfunding” of the state’s public schools.

The protest, organized by the Baltimore Algebra Project, a student run-tutoring and advocacy project, was held on the steps of the Maryland State House and drew 150 high school and college students. The group, the Baltimore Sun reported, cited a lack of education funding for the increase in juvenile crime, and, more specifically, the murder of an Algebra Project member who was shot during a robbery attempt. A coffin symbolizing his death was laid on the steps.

Before lying still in front of the building’s doors, 25 protesters moved past guards and strung crime-scene tape along stair railings to say that the Gov. Martin O’Malley’s education budget was a crime.

The Sun also reported that the governor’s proposal for calculating education funding would mean that, “Maryland public school districts would receive about $133 million less than they had expected.”

The detained demonstrators — a Baltimore public school teacher and two dozen students, including an 11-year old — told the Sun that a provocative protest was necessary to bring attention to their cause.

“This is beautiful. This is exactly what we wanted,” a handcuffed 16-year-old protestor said. “We’ve been ignored for too long. All we’re doing is fighting for our schools, our education, our future.”